Finding solution to NI Protocol challenges is essential but will be complex

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the UK Government’s announcement that it is seeking to work with the EU to resolve the problems associated with the Northern Ireland Protocol, but warned that any solution relating to the movement of products of animal origin will be complex.

In the command paper the UK Government proposes a dual regulatory regime for Northern Ireland. 

The document outlines how the Protocol is failing to deliver on some of its core objectives to minimise disruption to everyday lives, respect Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK’s internal market and preserve the delicate balance in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

The Government admitted the problems are significant and growing. The Chairman of Marks & Spencer warned that they are having to delist products in Northern Ireland because of the way the Protocol is currently working.

The Government said it wanted to Implement a different approach to preventing goods at risk entering the single market. “We are ready to enforce in the Irish Sea EU customs rules on goods going to Ireland via Northern Ireland, but goods going to and remaining in Northern Ireland must be able to circulate near-freely and full customs and SPS processes should only be applied to goods genuinely destined for the EU,” said a Government statement. “Ensuring that businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland can continue to have normal access to goods from the rest of the UK on which they have long relied. The regulatory environment in Northern Ireland should tolerate different standards, allowing goods made to UK standards and regulated by UK authorities to circulate freely in Northern Ireland as long as they remain in Northern Ireland.”

Responding to the ideas on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures set out in the UK Government’s command paper published by Lord Frost and Brandon Lewis, BVA President James Russell said: “There is a huge and legitimate concern about the lack of veterinary capacity to meet the requirements for moving products of animal origin from Great Britain to Northern Ireland once the grace period ends later this year. So we welcome concerted efforts by the UK Government and EU Commission to address the issues we’ve raised and we support the development of a framework that promotes good animal and public health outcomes whilst utilising the veterinary workforce effectively.

“However, the Government must not underestimate the complexity of finding a workable solution.

“A solution for SPS cannot simply be modelled on a customs arrangement as it needs to provide assurance throughout the whole system. Even if a product is sold in NI, there’s no guarantee that it will be consumed in NI due to the thousands of border crossings that take place every day. And consideration needs to be given to those farms and other businesses that straddle the border. How will products destined for these companies be designated?

“We remain concerned that dual systems can open the door to food fraud and would want to see significant safeguards in place.

“Steps to address the significant problems under the NI Protocol are essential, but the devil will be in the detail.”

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